In this “GI Movie Weekly” from Fistic Film (likely from 1939), viewers are treated to the historic fight on 4 July 1919 in Toledo, OH, where young boxer Jack Dempsey faced off against the World Heavyweight Champion Jess Willard. The film opens with a few highlights from 1919, including a young Prince of Wales observing the surrender of the German Fleet, Theodore Roosevelt speaking to an audience shortly before his death, and Babe Ruth posing in his New York Yankees jersey. The film then shows fight promoter Tex Rickard (01:45), Jack Dempsey, and Jess Willard, as Willard has his arms and chest measured. Seventy thousand spectators pack the grounds in Toledo (02:30) and cheer as Dempsey enters the ring. Willard enters the ring, and the championship belt is briefly paraded around. The two fighters meet in the middle of the ring to listen to the referee. Round one begins and Willard didn’t hear the bill, looking around unsure of what is happening. The two start to fight, and Dempsey dances with Willard (05:32), gets tangled up, then knocks Willard down for the first time in Willard’s career (06:07). Dempsey knocks Willard down a second time and then unleashes a flurry of punches on the bigger fighter. The crowd goes wild as Dempsey mauls Willard and knocks him down yet again. Dempsey gets Willard in the corner, lands several blows on his opponent, and knocks Willard down again. Dempsey quickly exists the ring thinking he won the fight by knockout. Dempsey’s manager yells at the young fighter to come back to the ring (08:30). Dempsey picks up where he left off at the start of the second round, and Willard struggles to fend off the fast fists of Dempsey. Dempsey gets Willard on the ropes and lands a few big blows (09:57), but Willard doesn’t go down. In the third round (10:30), Dempsey delivers several uppercuts to Willard. Dempsey ducks a punch then lands another uppercut (11:23). Willard is covered in blood (12:05), taking repeated hits from Dempsey, but he manages to stay on his feet and makes it to the end of the third round. Willard is unable to come out for at the start of the round four, giving Dempsey the win (12:45). People rush into the ring and celebrate Dempsey’s win. The film concludes with a few seconds of Dempsey’s major fights over the next eight years: his 1921 win against Georges Carpentier in Jersey City, his 1923 win against Tommy Gibbons in Shelby, MT, his 1923 win versus Luis Angel Firpo, his loss in 1926 to Gene Tunney in Philadelphia, his 1927 win against Jack Sharkey, and his second loss to Tunney, also in 1927.
William Harrison "Jack" Dempsey (June 24, 1895 – May 31, 1983), nicknamed "Kid Blackie" and "The Manassa Mauler", was an American professional boxer who competed from 1914 to 1927, and reigned as the world heavyweight champion from 1919 to 1926. A cultural icon of the 1920s, Dempsey's aggressive fighting style and exceptional punching power made him one of the most popular boxers in history. Many of his fights set financial and attendance records, including the first million-dollar gate.
Jess Myron Willard (December 29, 1881 – December 15, 1968) was a world heavyweight boxing champion known as the Pottawatomie Giant who knocked out Jack Johnson in April 1915 for the heavyweight title. He was known for his great strength and ability to absorb tremendous punishment, although today he is also known for his title loss to Jack Dempsey.
On July 4, 1919, Dempsey and World Heavyweight Champion Jess Willard met at Toledo for the world title. Pro lightweight fighter Benny Leonard predicted a victory for the 6'1", 187 pound Dempsey even though Willard, known as the "Pottawatamie Giant", was 6'6½" tall and 245 pounds. Ultimately, Willard was knocked down seven times by Dempsey in the first round.
Accounts of the fight reported that Willard suffered a broken jaw, broken ribs, several broken teeth, and a number of deep fractures to his facial bones. This aroused suspicion that Dempsey had cheated, with some questioning how the force capable of causing such damage had been transmitted through Dempsey's knuckles without fracturing them. Other reports, however, failed to mention Willard suffered any real injuries. The New York Times' account of the fight described severe swelling visible on one side of Willard's face, but did not mention any broken bones. A still photograph of Willard following the fight appears to show discoloration and swelling on his face.
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